What happens when the life you have known for 51 years turns upside down and everything you believed in turns out to be a lie – how do you survive and carry on? ‘Unsettled Ground’ by Claire Fuller is out
in paperback this month and a worthy Shortlisted contender for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2021).
- best book club reads -
What happens when the life you have known for 51 years turns upside down and everything you believed in turns out to be a lie – how do you survive and carry on? ‘Unsettled Ground’ by Claire Fuller is an astonishing story about what happens when a life of isolation ends and a path to survive must be sought.
Out in paperback this month and a worthy Shortlisted contender for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2021).
Twins Jeanie and Julius, despite being 51, live with their over protective mother Dot in a small cottage on a country estate owned by Spencer Rawson. Due to a heart condition diagnosed in childhood, Jeanie has never been properly educated or had a job, instead she tends the garden and vegetables accompanied by her adored dog, Maude. Julius flits between badly paid casual labouring jobs, with much of the money he earns going on pints at the local pub. When Dot dies – exquisitely portrayed by Fuller in the opening scene - Jeanie's and Julius’s lives unravel as everything they have known turns out to be a sham. They have no alternative but to try and survive and in doing so discover how ill equipped they are for the ‘real’ world.
Fuller has created an extraordinary and believable story about a family ultimately existing under the radar. Jeanie is socially awkward and unfamiliar with modern society. Julius, whilst being more in touch with the village, is still unable to carve out his own life. It seems as if Dot has kept her children to herself and with the exception of teaching them to be excellent musicians, made them outcasts to the outside world. Yet this is also a wonderful story of hope and fortitude. Fuller carefully balances the shocking incidents of ruthlessness and ridicule with extraordinary moments of kindness and love against a backdrop of nature and rural wilderness.
The Den were immediately drawn into this gripping page-turner. Jeanie and Julius have few redeeming features but you can only respect their determination to maintain their rustic separation from the modern world. Fuller is surely asking us to question whether it is still possible to resist the lure of phones, TVs, and cars, the irony of Julius never having his phone charged and not being able to travel any distance in a moving vehicle does not go unnoticed. Could today’s society ever go back to a traditional and basic existence of simply living off the land and making one’s own musical entertainment – a fascinating concept and a thought-provoking subject matter for your book club discussion.